Meadow Grass Dermatitis – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Meadow grass dermatitis

Meadow grass dermatitis ( dermatitis protensis , photodermatitis ) is a skin inflammation that is caused by certain extracts in plants and subsequent exposure to the sun and leads to strong pigmentation after healing.

What is meadow grass dermatitis?

Meadow grass dermatitis is an inflammatory skin disease and occurs mainly in spring to autumn. In most cases, contact with certain plants in connection with sunlight is the cause of meadow grass dermatitis.

It mainly affects people who have a lot to do with plants or who are often exposed to the sun.

These include, for example, farmers or gardeners, but also children who often spend time in the fresh air.


Meadow grass dermatitis causes a phototoxic skin reaction that is triggered by certain plant substances and UV light. These substances come mainly from so-called psoralens, which can be found in fruit heads, stems and leaves of exotic or native plants.

These include celery (Apium graveolens), cartilage, bergamot (Citrus bergamia), rue (Ruta gravedens), fig tree (Ficus carica), and angelica (Angelica). But masterwort (Peucedanum ostruthium), hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium), hogweed (Heracleum montegazzianum) and parsnip (Pastinaca) also promote skin inflammation.

Some of the plants mentioned are also used for perfumes, spices or drinks, so that a phototoxic reaction can also be triggered. In addition, meadow grass dermatitis can also be caused by the following medications: alendronate, special non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, tetracyclines, phenothiazines and 3.5- or 8-methoxypsoralen.

Meadow grass dermatitis can also be caused by cosmetics, tars or acridine dyes. Photodermatitis is not caused by an allergy , so it can happen to anyone. Moist skin also favors their development. The plant substances that are considered to be the triggers for meadow grass dermatitis are so-called photosensitizers.

These substances can absorb UV light and transfer the resulting energy to the skin. While sunburn is caused by an overdose of radiation, in the case of phototoxic reactions, a UV dose that is within the tolerance range leads to dermatitis.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

After contact with the plants, skin lesions appear after about a day or two, which have a leafy, net-like or striated appearance. Due to the greatly delayed occurrence of the symptoms, the trigger is often not recognized by those affected. Blisters form , the skin becomes red and itches severely . In addition, patients often complain of burning pain .

Superinfection can also occur if the skin barrier is damaged . If, after contact with the photosensitizers, the light exposure is only very weak, the meadow grass dermatitis often progresses without an inflammatory phase. This form is called photodermatitis pigmentaria. After about two to four weeks, the skin changes heal with severe hyperpigmentation .

In photodermatitis due to cosmetics, hyperpigmentation often appears in the form of a sagging drop. The skin pigmentations often only disappear after a few months and can be cosmetically disturbing. Phototoxic reactions follow a specific distribution pattern, with the skin changes occurring specifically in exposed areas of the skin. The most commonly affected skin areas are the legs and arms.

If the dermatitis is triggered by cosmetics, skin changes can also occur on the décolleté, neck and face. Sometimes it is relatively difficult to distinguish it from what is known as airborne contact dermatitis, which is triggered by plant allergens. Certain photosensitizers such as chlorpromazine or coal tar often also cause an immediate reaction with urticarial erythema, burning and stinging.

Diagnosis & disease progression

The doctor makes the diagnosis based on the shape of the skin lesions. Meadow grass dermatitis can also be differentiated from sunburn by the blisters that appear, which often have very bizarre patterns. If necessary, the physician can also detect the photosensitizer by means of a photo patch test. In a photopatch test, the doctor applies test substances to a patch and attaches it to the patient’s back.

After one day, one side is removed and irradiated with UV light . After two days, the doctor also removes the other test patch and marks both areas with a pen. These areas are then evaluated for blisters, papules and redness.


In the case of meadow grass dermatitis, those affected primarily suffer from various skin complaints. These complaints have a very negative effect on the aesthetics of those affected and can therefore also lead to inferiority complexes or a significantly reduced sense of self-esteem. Children in particular suffer from depression or other mental health problems because they are often teased or bullied.

Those affected suffer from severe itching and blisters on the skin due to meadow grass dermatitis. The skin itself is clearly reddened and can also burn or hurt. Especially at night, this pain can lead to sleep disorders and thus to irritability in the patient. The patient’s quality of life is significantly reduced by the disease.

Furthermore, there is a very strong pigmentation, which is also cosmetically disturbing. The symptoms can be very uncomfortable, especially on the face. Meadow grass dermatitis is treated with creams and ointments and in most cases leads to a positive course of the disease. As long as the affected person also avoids contact with the triggering substance, there are usually no particular symptoms. The life expectancy of those affected is not negatively affected by the disease.

When should you go to the doctor?

If your skin changes or you experience health issues when you are outdoors, you should see a doctor to clarify the symptoms. In many cases, the abnormalities appear about one to two days after contact with plants. Medical tests are required to make the diagnosis and therefore a doctor should be consulted. Action is required in the event of pain, the formation of blisters or reddening of the skin. Any itching, general discomfort, or feeling sick should also be investigated and discussed with your doctor.

Sleeping problems, concentration disorders and behavioral problems indicate a health irregularity that needs to be clarified. A withdrawal from social life, mood swings, reduced well-being and the assessment of a reduced quality of life are signs of a health disorder. Clarification of the cause and a treatment plan are required so that the symptoms can be alleviated and the zest for life improved.

If the itching leads to open wounds, complications can arise. If these are not treated professionally, sepsis and thus a potential danger to human life can occur. Therefore, if existing irregularities increase in scope and intensity, a doctor should be consulted. A dry complexion and tight skin are also to be interpreted as a warning signal from the organism and should be treated accordingly.

Treatment & Therapy

Meadow grass dermatitis is treated locally with lotions and creams containing glucocorticoids. Very severe photodermatitis is treated like a second-degree burn. To do this, the doctor punctures, cleans and disinfects the larger blisters and then protects them with a wound dressing.

In addition, the redness is cooled like a sunburn. Phototoxic drugs and cosmetics must be discontinued immediately. Strong depigmentation can be achieved with a combination of hydrocortisone 1 percent, hydroquinone 5.0 percent and vitamin A acid 0.1 percent. If permanent hyperpigmentation occurs, laser therapy can help.

Patients should also avoid contact with the triggering plant substance. Furthermore, direct sunlight should be avoided for a few days. In very severe forms, the doctor often prescribes cortisone for oral use or as an infusion.


You can protect yourself from meadow grass dermatitis by wearing clothing that covers your legs and arms and thus prevents contact with the plants. You should be particularly careful when sweating heavily or after bathing, as the skin is damp and the effect of the plant substances is increased as a result.

Shade or a cloudy sky, on the other hand, does not protect against meadow grass dermatitis, as there is still enough ultraviolet light to cause the skin disease.


Meadow grass dermatitis is an allergic disease. Those affected should obtain comprehensive information about the clinical picture and know the circumstances under which the health impairments can occur. Through medical tests, the treating doctor can find out to which plant substances the affected person reacts.

The patient should be aware of plant locations and growing times to minimize personal risk. In order to act preventively, certain regions can of course be avoided. Before traveling it is helpful to find out about the relevant vegetation in the holiday area in order to prepare yourself adequately.

Exposure to UV radiation generally increases the symptoms of meadow grass dermatitis and can cause further complications. Therefore, when skin irregularities first appear, sunlight should be avoided as far as possible. When leaving the house, make sure to cover your body with appropriate clothing as much as possible.

After staying outdoors for a long time, it is advisable to change your clothes to keep the pollen content in the air as low as possible. It is also important to carry the medication prescribed by the doctor with you during the growth and flowering period so that you can act immediately if necessary. To prevent allergies, a vitamin-rich diet is very important. Vitamin C in particular, which is found in peppers, savoy cabbage, kale and fennel, helps the body to protect itself against allergies.

You can do that yourself

People with meadow grass dermatitis should obtain comprehensive information on how to deal with the disease. It is important that they find out enough about the circumstances under which the health problems occur and what effects their own behavior has.

Various tests are used to find out which plant substances the affected person reacts to. Biological and geographical knowledge is important in order to find out the locations and growth times of the corresponding plants at an early stage. In many cases, sufficient knowledge about where the triggering plants are located is acquired in everyday life after a certain time. The region is avoided so that preventive action is taken. Before starting a journey or visiting another area, the person concerned should also try to obtain information about the local fauna.

At the first irregularities, the sunlight should be avoided. Exposure to UV radiation increases symptoms and can lead to further complications. It is therefore important to ensure that when leaving the house, clothing is worn that covers the body as best as possible. With the beginning of the natural growth and flowering period, the medicine prescribed by the doctor should be carried with you as a precaution. Studies have shown that a balanced diet rich in vitamins also has a positive effect on further developments. Above all, care should be taken to ensure an adequate supply of vitamin A.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.